Reactions pour in from yesterday’s BDCP announcement of changes to the project

I received and collected a few reactions from various organizations to yesterday’s announcement.  Here’s what I have, listed in alphabetical order:

From the Association of California Water Agencies:

Timothy Quinn, executive director of the statewide Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), issued the following statement on changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s proposed conveyance system announced today by the California Department of Water Resources. (See announcement here.)

The BDCP is a long-term effort to provide a more reliable water supply for California by modifying Delta conveyance facilities to create a more natural flow pattern and implementing a suite of ecosystem restoration measures.

Today’s announcement reflects sensitivity to the feedback the Department of Water Resources has received from stakeholders. In our view, it is another step in the right direction for this process, which is a critical effort to restore the Delta ecosystem and improve water supply reliability for 25 million Californians and millions of acres of farmland.

We continue to believe the BDCP is an important opportunity to put California on a path to retool our water system for the 21st century. The effort is one element of a broader set of actions needed to address overall water supply reliability and ecosystem health in California. Ultimately, the BDCP needs to be successful as part of a broader statewide policy that works for the state as a whole.”

ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 440 members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit www.acwa.com.

From the City of Sacramento:

The following is a statement from Sacramento City Manager John Shirey on the changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan announced today by the California Secretary for Natural Resources:

“As we have expressed in the past, the City of Sacramento still has strong concerns about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. While we recognize that California has a water supply problem and sensitive habitat in the Delta must be protected, California should not implement a plan that helps two-thirds of the state at the expense of the other one-third.

“The changes outlined, while an important first step in addressing some environmental and local concerns, still leave us with unanswered questions and more than a few concerns.

“Today’s announcement shows us that the Administration has an interest in working more closely with stakeholders. We appreciate these first steps by the Administration because, as the most innovative state in the nation, we must work together to find a solution that works for all Californians.”

From the Environmental Water Caucus:

While the revised plan is clearly an attempt by DWR to placate the previously ignored Delta constituency, it still has significant problems:

 

  1. Tunnels under the Delta are such an awful concept that any revised routing would face only disagreeable choices. And this revision to pour muck and base construction activities on the home of the iconic Sandhill Cranes is certainly a poor choice among many poor choices, to say nothing of the legal ramifications of using land in a conservation trust (Staten Island) for these construction activities.
  2. The change does nothing to solve the underlying problem of the Delta and BDCP: an oversubscribed Delta with exporters who are anxious to get more water and have designed the project that way. Recognizing water supply limits is something that water exporters and public agencies are going to have to face up to before any real solutions are possible.
  3. In the category of a real solution is one that does not require additional conveyance through or around the Delta and that relies on water demand reduction and conservation efficiencies to provide a reliable urban and agricultural water supply. The Environmental Water Caucus’ Responsible Exports Plan fits that category and will probably emerge as the only real solution when all other remedies are exhausted.

Nick Di Croce, EWC

From the Golden Gate Salmon Association:

From John McManus, executive director of Golden Gate Salmon Association in response to today’s tunnel chatter:

The BDCP planners need to slow their planning until the state water board can conclude its determination of how much water is needed to keep the delta alive.   Only then can BDCP planners know how big a facility to design and build.  As is, they’re putting the cart before the horse.  If the announcement today was to eliminate one of the 40 foot diameter tunnels altogether we’d be more convinced they’re paying attention to the warnings they’ve gotten from federal fishery biologists who say the project, as presently planned, will likely lead to the extinction of Central Valley salmon.”

From the Nature Conservancy:

The Nature Conservancy announced today its intent to preserve migratory bird habitat in the Delta in light of the California Department of Water Resources’ proposed location for water export tunnels below Staten Island, which is owned by the Conservancy. In the updated Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the proposed tunnels would impact vitally important habitat for wintering sandhill cranes. These birds are unusually site-faithful, often using the same location to winter, year after year. Fifteen percent of the Greater Sandhill Cranes in the Central Valley winter on Staten Island.

Because of Staten Island’s unique habitat values, it is with serious concern that we contemplate the Department of Water Resources’ proposed use of the Island as the location of its water export tunnels,” said Wendy Pulling, director of conservation programs at The Nature Conservancy in California. “Construction and operation of the tunnels could have significant negative impacts on crane habitat. Once an historic wintering site is lost, there is no guarantee that, if restored, the cranes will come back. Given that habitat is severely limited in the Central Valley, there are few places for these majestic birds to go.

The Nature Conservancy acquired Staten Island in 2001 in order to protect the crane habitat provided by wildlife friendly farming. The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition of Staten Island was made possible by $30 million in grant awards from public funds for conservation purposes. As a requirement of the grant funds, the Conservancy is required under the terms of a conservation easement to protect wildlife friendly agriculture. The Department of Water Resources owns the easement. While the Conservancy will not voluntarily agree to the Department of Water Resources’ proposal to locate its tunnels under Staten Island, it recognizes that DWR, as a state agency, has the legal authority to condemn the property under California’s eminent domain laws.

We will treat this plan as we would any other attempt by a public agency to use Conservancy land for construction – we will vigorously pursue all options available in order to ensure that the sandhill cranes are not harmed and that the Department of Water Resources lives up to all its legal obligations to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts at Staten Island,” Pulling said.

The Nature Conservancy has been engaged in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process in order to advance habitat conditions for migratory birds and other wildlife in the Delta. However, the Conservancy has not taken a position on the BDCP and cannot take a position until it is released.

Regardless of where the Department of Water Resources ends up siting its proposed tunnels, The Nature Conservancy will engage vigorously in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan process to ensure that any environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the tunnels are avoided, minimized and mitigated,” Pulling said.

From Restore the Delta:

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Gov. Brown’s rush to build Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to the latest proposal released by the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The Department of Water Resources (DWR) and BDCP are proposing to move the tunnels farther east, away from the delta communities of Courtland and Walnut Grove.

This is a failed attempt by Jerry Meral to show that he and the other architects of the BDCP are sensitive to Delta communities.  It does not change the fact that 48 significant and unavoidable impacts that are identified in the BDCP will be inflicted on Delta communities, fisheries, farms, and boaters.  This new proposal does not even consider the significant harm that would come to Sandhill Cranes which nest on Staten Island.  These magnificent birds will do even worse than Delta residents with around the clock construction noise, traffic, and tunnel muck, disrupting their nursing areas,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director Restore the Delta.

Jerry Meral refuses to acknowledge these 48 significant and unavoidable impacts publicly; he directed Dr. David Sunding to ignore these impacts in the incomplete economic analysis released last week; and this latest attempt to sell the plan as improved points to new disasters in the making.  Meral thinks we are supposed to be satisfied that he has lessened some of the impacts on a few of our neighbors while continuing to sacrifice the entire region.  It is like the Owens Valley all over again.”

From the Southern California Water Committee:

The California Department of Water Resources today announced improvements to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) that have been made to address input the state has received from stakeholders, particularly landowners surrounding the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). The modified project includes significant changes, including a 50 percent reduction in the permanent facility’s footprint, an increase in utilization of public lands instead of private lands and a decrease in forebay size, which reduces impacts to roads and bridges, creates conservation opportunities and makes it possible to utilize more publicly-owned land. The study also shows a shift of some construction activities away from the north Delta communities. For more information, please visit the fact sheets issued by the state today.

We have been closely watching the Bay Delta Conservation Plan evolve throughout the past seven years through rigorous reviews, scientific studies and hundreds of public meetings. The state has carefully considered many options and is consistently working to refine the project to reduce impacts and craft a proposal that works for stakeholders both here in Southern California and for our friends in the north. We’re very pleased to see that the state was able to make these key modifications to address the significant amount of public input they’ve received on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.”

Rich Atwater
Executive Director
Southern California Water Committee

Established in 1984, the Southern California Water Committee is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public education partnership dedicated to informing Southern Californians about our water needs and our state’s water resources. Spanning Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Imperial, Riverside, Ventura and Kern Counties, the SCWC’s members include representatives from business, government, agriculture, water agencies, labor and the general public. Visit us at www.socalwater.org and find us on Facebook.

From the State Water Contractors:

The State of California’s Department of Water Resources announced changes to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) today. The refinements made to the BDCP were done, in large part, due to requests from Delta stakeholders who wanted to see the project’s footprint and costs reduced. These changes will be fully analyzed and incorporated into the Public Review Draft EIR/EIS and Plan that will be released later this year. The BDCP has been in development for seven years and has evolved through extensive scientific research, planning and public input. Making these alterations to the BDCP illustrates the state’s commitment to ensuring all stakeholders are involved in this important process and their input is utilized. Some of the new modifications include:

  • The total permanent footprint of the project has been reduced by 50 percent
  • Some construction activity has been shifted away from north Delta communities
  • The main tunnel length has been shortened from 35 miles to approximately 30 miles
  • The surface area of Intermediate Forebay has been reduced from 750 acres to 40 acres and relocated, lessening the impacts to roads and bridges and creating conservation opportunities
  • Some construction activity has been shifted from private to public lands
  • Impacts to private land owners have been reduced

A suite of fact sheets and other documents outlining the modifications to the BDCP can be found on the BDCP’s website here.

“Like many others, our member agencies are interested in seeing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan be developed thoughtfully and with input from all stakeholders. As the parties who will be ultimately responsible for funding the majority of the BDCP, we have a significant stake in this project being a workable, successful solution for the Delta’s water supply and environmental troubles. We are pleased to see the state’s responsiveness to feedback over the past seven years; making targeted modifications to the BDCP is an important step in the effort to restore the ecosystem of the Delta and secure the water supply for 25 million Californians.”

Terry Erlewine
General Manager
State Water Contractors

The State Water Contractors is a statewide, non-profit association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project. Collectively the State Water Contractors deliver water to more than 25 million residents throughout the state and more than 750,000 acres of agricultural land. For more information on the State Water Contractors, please visit www.swc.org.

Thank you to all who sent me their comments, some of whom I hadn’t heard from before.  If your agency or organization has responses to events in the water world, please feel free to send them to me at this address.

 

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